Asbury Park Press

13th District Hopefuls To Join Ethics Project

Candidates will get "clean" public funds

Asbury Park Press — Thursday, July 14, 2005


Democratic and Republican candidates in the 13th District Assembly race have announced they will all participate in a Clean Elections Pilot Project that provides public financing for their campaigns.

Republican Party State Chairman Tom Wilson designated the 13th District for the project in June, but the candidates were not required to participate and could have opted to raise money on their own.

On Wednesday, the GOP candidates – Monmouth County Freeholder Amy H. Handlin and Assemblyman Samuel D. Thompson - announced their intention to participate. Democratic candidates William Flynn and Michael Dasaro announced during a campaign kickoff rally Tuesday that they also planned to participate.

"For far too long, New Jersey residents have been forced to shoulder the burden of a campaign system that unfairly benefits loyal and well-financed contributors," Handlin said in a prepared statement. "Unfortunately, the coercive practice of pay-to-play has been permitted to taint our campaign finance system."

Pay-to-play is the practice of awarding government contracts to campaign contributors.

By accepting the "clean" label, candidates could receive up to $50,000 in public funding. To qualify for public money, candidates have to meet specific fund-raising requirements. They have until 60 days before the election to raise 1,000 contributions of $5 and 500 contributions of $30. Candidates must also promise not to accept any further political donations from party bosses, special-interest groups or individuals.

"We agree with the spirit of the law," Thompson said. "However, there is no doubt that in its current form, this law has considerable flaws. . . . There are significant challenges we must overcome to run as "Clean Elections' candidates."

Republican candidates said the law does not meaningfully limit expenditures by a third party. Candidates would receive $50,000 to defend themselves against a third-party attack, but GOP leaders have said that would not be enough to fund a sufficient response.

Dasaro, however, said he was "honored" to participate in a pilot program that could bring significant changes to the campaign finance system.

"It is important to restore the public confidence, not only in the campaign fund-raising process, but also in elected officials in general," Dasaro said.

Flynn agreed that change was needed to limit outside influence in politics.

"We feel that in order to get away from pay-to-play, and the influence of various vested groups that give big money, the only way around that is to have a clean election campaign such as the one we are going to try to be in," Flynn said.

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